How to prune a tree

by Mark Russell on February 24, 2010

I wanted to write a post on how to properly prune a tree.
Many homeowners don’t know the proper steps in tree pruning.
So quickly, I’m going to discuss if you of the common mistakes made and hopefully you will be able to perform minor (safe) tree work on some lower branches.
Timing-  what season of the year you prune your tree is critical.  If you prune your tree directly after the tree has used all its energy to grow new leads, you will mess up the trees equilibrium.  This is the balance between roots and leaves.  During the dormant season, the nutrients of the tree is stored within its roots.  It uses this nutrients in spring to produce leaves in order to maintain and grow through photosynthesis.
If you cut these brand-new leaves off right after they appear it stresses the tree and uses its precious resources.
Proper pruning cuts:
The three cut method- many homeowners will cut a branch from top to bottom.  This is problematic for the tree because the bark on the bottom of the branch will “peal” only from the tree as the branch falls.
The proper way to prune a heavy branch is to first make an undercut outside the tree’s final cut area.
The second cut is too cut from top to bottom again just outside the first cut.
Finally, now that the wait has been removed, you can make a top to bottom cut just outside of the branch caller.  Because the wait has been removed the bark will not peal and it will give you a clean healthy surface for the tree to compartmentalize the wound.
Topping or mid-branch cuts–  one of the most common mistakes that many homeowners make is to randomly cut in the middle of a branch.  Honestly, this drives me nuts.  I hate to see a tree trying to heal its self but it can’t because there is too much “dead material” or stub left attached to the trunk.
A proper pruning cut is performed at the end of the branch collar.  You want to leave the branch collar on the tree because this minimizes the “open wound” that the tree has to heal.
If you cut too close to the trunk and remove the branch collar, which is known as a “flush cut”, this will create too much open wound for diseases and pathogens to enter into the tree system.
Crown reduction- if your goal is to reduce the height of the tree or a length of the branch, it is imperative that you make your cut at a junction of another branch.  Also it is imperative that the remaining branch that is left has the diameter of 33% of the branch that you cut.  Again, I will stress that this is at minimum. Preferred is 50% or greater.  It is important that you make your cut right at the other branch that you are leaving and not higher.  This will allow the leftover branch to deposit Sapp and compartmentalize the wound from the tree branch that you removed.

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